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The Meuse-Argonne Offensive – Bulgarian Collapse I THE GREAT WAR Week 218

August 28, 2019


this week is a remarkable week of the war for this week seize the defenses of not one but two of the central powers completely collapse [Music] i’m indy neidell welcome to the great war last week the oil city of Baku fell to the ottomans but things went far worse for them on the Palestine front after cutting off Ottoman communications the British broke through their lines between Rifat and the Mediterranean Sea and closed in on Nazareth on the Macedonian front a couple of Allied attacks and a mutiny among the Bulgarians led to a sudden allied break through there so sudden the Allies didn’t even realize it there was also a smaller allied breakthrough on the Western Front attacks on the Western Front continued in fact there were two new Allied offensives there this week one was a huge franco-american attack from Champaign to the Meuse river the preliminary bombardment contained mustard and phosphine gas shells and incapacitated 10,000 Germans at 5:30 a.m. on the 26th the Americans went over the top and at 6:00 a.m. the French followed suit this was on a front of over 60 kilometers both armies advanced several miles the Allies had a huge advantage on paper for example facing the Americans were five divisions at one-third strength so the nine full US divisions attacking had an 8 to 1 manpower superiority over the Germans but curiously they had only 821 planes and 189 light tanks and that was half of the mobile force they had had at the easiest on mihail offensive two weeks ago and that was easier for this was a major challenge for the Americans the advance was in a valley littered with streams and bounded to the east by the muse the muse heights across the river were great for flanking fire on the left were the heights of the Argonne forest and ahead lay the heights of Mont Falcone and Romagna the Germans had been here since 1914 and were well-prepared to say the least with all the barbed wire concrete bunkers and machine-gun posts you could want and they also had quite an efficient local rail system that could bring up six reserve divisions in just 48 hours there were three defensive systems with the second and main one being the cream Hilda Stella all of this protected the sedan Metz railway line for if that fell the German armies to the north would be isolated Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Fache had told American commander John Pershing to take the claim Hilde Stalin within two days while they tried to do that on Riga Road and the French would have pushed through Champaign toward for em on the 27th the Americans actually did take mont Falcone but the Germans had already brought in four reserve divisions and the idea of quickly taking the claim Hilde Stalin turned out to be wishful thinking as the week came to an end still the combined advance had taken 23,000 prisoners so far the other new Western Front attack was a British one British commander Sir Douglas Haig was now going to hit the German centre the Hindenburg Line this was going to be a double assault first on the canal du Nord on the 27th and then next week on the 29th on the sonken team canal one aspect of the brilliance of that German defense system was that it integrated waterways into it which had by now become even more significant because they were obstacles against tanks the Canal du Nord was 30 metres wide and the West Bank was three or four metres high past that lay barbed wire belts and machine-gun posts the Germans also held some high ground that overlooked the whole area the 1st and 3rd British armies would attack and the Canadian Corps would spearhead this now they didn’t have as many tanks or planes as they’d had last month since these were allocated for the San contain attack but they advanced under a heavy and accurate creeping barrage according to David Stevenson the infantry was to cross a dry section of the canal in waves and bring up artillery and machine guns they made the crossing pretty easily and engineers began building bridges in fact by the evening they made a gap a break in the Hindenburg Line nearly 20 kilometers wide and ten deep they’d also taken 16,000 prisoners however the attack would slow down as next week begins and though there was five days of continual fighting the attack was called off after heavy Canadian casualties it was also unable to support the San contine attack when that goes off but that’s in the future the initial Canal du Nord attack had achieved total surprise but the defences were unable to be broken with it it is interesting what different sources say about all this Canadian military history Journal contradicts Stevenson and says that Arthur Currie had his Canadians cross in flooded sections except for a narrow dry strip to hit the German flank here are some interesting numbers for you about all of this action now the British War Cabinet had been worried for weeks that these attacks in the German center would turn into a Second Battle of Passchendaele British chief of staff Henry Wilson pointed out to them that during Passchendaele the British had taken 265 thousand casualties and 24 thousand prisoners of war during the month of August 1918 they’d taken just 50 thousand casualties and captured 43 thousand by crazy comparison in the week ending September 24th the British Expeditionary Force took 30,000 prisoners more than they had in any other week of the war the Allies were also taking prisoners by the thousands on other fronts on the Palestine front they continued their breakthrough taking the nazareth garrison at the beginning of the week german commander Limon phone sanders was forced to flee in his pajamas on the 21st british infantry reached samaria and drove the ottomans into the British cavalry east of the River Jordan the Arab revolt cuts the Damascus railway in several spaces 18,000 prisoners have now been taken and in what Martin Gilbert called the most devastating aerial attack of the war over 50 planes bombed and machine-gunned the Turkish columns in the narrow defile of Wadi Farah as they tried to reach the river Jordan they used nine tons of bombs and 56,000 rounds the Bombers attacked the vehicles at the head of the column and the rest then had to stop so the men were sitting ducks a second similar attack was launched the next day Gilbert says that some of the pilots who bombed the defenseless retreating Turks were so noisy a saw that they asked to make no further sorties by the 22nd the 7th and 8th Ottoman armies were basically wiped out the British are nor of the dead sea and closed the enemy’s escape route 25,000 prisoners by now on the 23rd the British reach s salt and the Arabs occupy maan while on the coast the British capture Haifa and Accra on the 25th the British cavalry reached the Sea of Galilee other cavalry units occupy Amman on the Berlin Baghdad railway 45,000 prisoners by now as the week ends the cavalry had ridden across the Golan Heights in Syria Damascus lies just a hundred kilometres away and another allied breakthrough was also in progress on the macedonian front on the 21st French and Serbian troops threatened the babuna pass french moroccan troops enter prilep September 21st for three years this has been German headquarters the Italians are to prevent the enemy from reaching new Scoob the railway hub on the 22nd the vulgarians retreat on a hundred mile front from monastere to Lake Doran the Allies cut the Vardar railway and advance on the babuna pass on the 23rd the Bulgarians are routed and streamed towards villas with hot pursuit the Serbs are now well north of the Vardar the British north of Lake Doran on the road to strew meats up on the 24th the Serbs reach grad school a key objective and it’s fall cuts off the most direct line of retreat for the Bulgarians to Sofia their capital on September 25th the Bulgarians propose an armistice but Allied commander France a display aka desperate Frankie refuses the Serbs take the babuna pass and Villas the British crossed the Bulgarian border on the 26th they takes true meets earth the Bulgarian defeats led to unrest in Sofia well more unrest than usual for 1918 this spreads to other cities by the 23rd and students began establishing soviets officer cadets and the German soldiers who’d finally arrived from Crimea tried to disperse them but on the 27th in radomir we’re retreating Bulgarian army mutineers had converged a new Republic was declared with Alexander stamboli ski as president he has the support of thousands of soldiers and will try and see Sofia under 50 kilometers away those Bulgarian mutineers were from the mutiny I mentioned last week but mutiny was by now a regular thing everywhere this week saw the first mutiny in combat of Australian troops when members of the first Australian battalion refused to take part in an attack this was in protest of being sent back into the lines when they were supposed to be relieved they were not charged with desertion in the face of the enemy which was punishable by execution just with being absent without leave and the week comes to an end with the Allies routing the enemy in Palestine and Macedonia but launching two offensives on the Western Front that boat’s the initial success but grind down after just a couple of days I’ll end today with some more numbers these from chronology of the Great War just to sort of give you a scale of how things are going on the Western Front from July 15th to September 30th the Allies took two hundred and forty-eight thousand four hundred ninety four soldiers prisoner five thousand five hundred and eighteen officers twenty-three thousand machine guns and three thousand six hundred and sixty-nine big guns they also took 25 thousand prisoners of war in Macedonia and 70 thousand in Palestine that is over a third of a million prisoners in 75 days that is a staggering figure and sometimes I have to give these numbers to remind us of the true scale of the war but those three hundred and forty-five thousand men were actually the lucky ones they weren’t the hundreds of thousands of men who were killed then or are soon to be killed their war was over if you’d like to know more about the fate of those men that were taken prisoner you can click right here for a special episode about prisoners of war our patreon supporter of the week is Leoben Osman Roble Deva thank you for your ongoing support on patreon which made this show possible over the years please consider supporting us at patreon.com slash the Great War and do not forget to subscribe see you next time

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